Article Courtesy of Nikie Mayo||September 19, 2014|Shared as Educational Material
Researchers who are trying to improve the region’s drinking water sourced from Hartwell Lake hope an in-depth analysis will reveal the cause of the algae bloom that created taste and odor problems in residents’ tap water.
The algae could be caused by high nutrient levels, land-use habits, discharges upstream or a combination of factors, said Matt Huddleston, an environmental consultant on the water-improvement project.
The Anderson Regional Joint Water System has contracted with researchers from Greenville-based SynTerra Corp., where Huddleston works, and with a team from Clemson University in hopes of finding a water fix.
The researchers’ first progress report, made public by the regional water system Thursday, indicates that the taste- and odor-causing compounds that affect tap water have “declined significantly” in the days since the researchers applied algaecides to Hartwell Lake. Those algaecides, which are copper- and hydrogen peroxide-based compounds, were applied Sept. 4-5.
About 5,000 dead fish — mostly shad and a few carp — were discovered a few days later.
“The fish loss in this case was isolated, and measures will be taken to prevent recurrence if future algaecide applications are considered,” the researchers’ report said.
Huddleston said any future applications of algae-killing compounds would be even more precise and targeted “with a wider margin of safety for the fish.”
Scott Willett, the executive director of the regional water system, said he is encouraged by the researchers’ report this week, but officials will wait for long-term results before determining whether the algaecides are effective treatments. The compounds were applied to 160 acres around the water system’s intake on the lake, and the treatment could be good for up to two months, according to John Rodgers, a Clemson University professor who is overseeing the project.
Hartwell Lake is the main source to provide up to 48 million gallons of water daily to more than a dozen Upstate utilities and nearly 200,000 customers served by the regional water system.
The taste- and odor-causing compounds in the lake — 2-Methylisoborneol, and geosmin — are produced by algae and detectable by people in concentrations as low as 10 nanograms per liter.
The concentrations of 2-Methylisoborneol were up to 106 nanograms per liter before the algaecide was applied. Those concentrations have declined to 14 nanograms per liter in the days since the treatment.
Geosmin concentrations were at 14 nanograms before the algaecides and have declined to as low as 5 nanograms per liter in the days since the treatment, according to the report.
Less than a month ago, the Anderson Regional Joint Water System board approved spending up to $150,000 to treat taste and odor problems. That move came after a spring and summer full of complaints from customers who said their water had a musty smell and tasted like dirt.
“If this works for two months, it’s a pretty good deal,” Willett said Thursday. “If it works for two days, it’s not. We’re waiting to see long-term results before we make long-term plans. Obviously, the report says the water quality has improved. We’re looking forward to it returning to the level customers expect and deserve.”